Concert photography is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel. Seriously.
If you see a photographer’s portfolio and are blown away from all the great concert photos they have, take this into consideration.
Somebody sets up tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of lighting equipment for them and in some cases an impressive stage design setup too. Then they put a celebrity in front of those lights & backdrop, but only after they’ve spent weeks with professional choreographers helping arrange their every movements. Then costume designers, along with hair & makeup artists make them look fabulous and the photographer get dropped stage side with an unobstructed view of them.
In this day and age where everyone has a camera in their pocket, you know there’s no way an artist is going to step out on stage and have everything look like trash. So, it makes the job of the photographer even easier.
Can concert photography still be challenging? Sure. Read my post about photographing The Weeknd last summer, but in general, even newbie photographers with a 200m lens are not going to having a hard time making Taylor Swift look good if they get in the photo pit. It’s the main reason why they only give you three songs to do your job. Because it’s not that hard.
Getting Great Photos of Kelela
I got some great shots of Kelela‘s show at Thalia Hall in Chicago, on March 18th, 2023 while on assignment for The Chicago Tribune, (story link here), but it’s the abstract images I make at a show that I’m always the proudest of and in my opinion is how you should judge concert photography.
This image below of her as she sings “Raven” and flips the bird under a single spotlight is cool, but was simple to get. The way she’s silhouetted, has nothing to do with a vision I had, it was all staged and lit so I just had to push a button. It’s a cool blog or social media post, but it’s not going to be in my portfolio, but I bet it would be in someone else’s.
Photos That Set Me Apart
The images I’m really proud of are the ones that encompass the parts of the show that weren’t choreographed or where I took a chance with a unique angle or composition, like these below.
This isn’t a knock on the photographers that do mostly concert photography, more a cautionary tale that those who are starting out and want to do it. Push yourself to show more than what the show’s producers are putting out there for you to easily take.